Playwrights: Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, Jamie Wooten
Company: First Company
Venue: First United Methodist Church Theater, 420 North Nevada, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance: Saturday, March 11, 2017.
I wish I could sum up the plot of Dearly Beloved in a few sentences, but that would definitely be a fool's errand. I could just say “it’s complicated,” which is true but unhelpful. So here’s my best “brief” and fairly descriptive summary of the plot.
The show takes place in the small town of Fayro, TX, home to 3,003 authentically funny souls. There’s going to be a wedding; but the happy couple (Madalyn Rilling as Tina Jo & the mysterious Parker Price) turns up missing.
That’s a big problem, as the Gone With the Wind themed extravaganza is a very large event in Fayro. Tina Jo’s mother Frankie (Kitty Robbins) is on overload, trying to put on a wedding and keep sisters Twink (played by Alicia Franks), and Honey Rae (played by Cheerish Martin) from scratching each other’s eyes out.
Jones/Hope/Wooten cleverly mix some interesting ingredients into their story:
- Tina Jo’s mother’s curious health issues,
- Tina Jo’s Dad’s (Jon Reimer) alleged fling with a local tart,
- Tina Jo’s sister’s exotic if unconventional career (bovine insemination specialist),
- and some soulful Gospel music for good measure.
The result is a sure fire recipe for frivolity, fun, and surprises.
There’s a LOT to like about First Company’s production, from the flexible and functional set by Marty Fennewald to Katie Harmon’s eye catching costume design. First among the strengths of Director Daniel S. Robbins’ cast, however, is the Sermonettes (Kitty Robbins, Cheerish Martin, and Alicia Franks), the Fayro gospel trio with fabulous harmonies. The Sermonettes stole the show with their soulful, sweet renditions of traditional hymns.
|The Sermonettes. L-R: Kitty Robbin, Alicia Franks, Cheerish Martin.|
When not singing as the Sermonettes, Robbins, Martin, and Franks anchor the cast with their solid performances as the dysfunctional ladies of Fayro. Ms. Robbins shocked the audience when she revealed her secret, eliciting a collective audible gasp. Ms. Martin struts her stuff in a gold lamé trimmed dress with matching spiked heels, making Honey Raye’s hot flashes and five failed marriages a comedic flashpoint. Ms. Franks is the zany wedding planner, cooking 300 pounds of meat while putting the pot luck together.
Franks is not just in charge of the BBQ. She also has a field day with her love interest, Wiley Hicks (Justin Anderson), drugging him into oblivion. Anderson’s physical comedy, including a tumble off a table, is precisely staged and timed for maximum effect. In a relatively small role, Anderson makes a big splash as Twink’s boyfriend.
Director Daniel Robbins keeps the comedy pace quick, starting in act one, scene one. Megan Rieger (playing florist Geneva Musgrave) opens the show alone on stage. She is short on the flowers she needs for the imminent wedding. Constantly interrupted by phone calls she hasn’t the time to take, Rieger answers each one as if she’s an automated voice mail machine. When it comes time to leave a message, she beeps and hangs up on the callers. Rieger gets the laughs started with her poise and personality, and Robbins capitalizes on Rieger’s opener. He keeps the characters as fun and as funny as possible as they endure the zany complications threatening the so called wedding.
The script is a collaborative effort of three playwrights, and I suspect that each of them contributed characters from their personal experiences. Dearly Beloved’s “family” issues result in some great comedy based on painful realities. For better or worse, you may recognize some of your own family members in Dearly Beloved. I know I did.
My issues with the script are of the nit picking type. The jokes (and at times the characters) seem corny and juvenile. The characters are definitely small town stereotypes. In my experience, small town characters have as much individuality and as diversity as those in any other town.
With one exception, the script is also unflattering to the males of Fayro. That one exception is Dub, the patriarch of the Dubberly clan, played by Jon Reimer. Reimer turns in the only male performance that requires grace, dignity, and class. In Reimer’s case, I’m sure those qualities are not just an act.
Dearly Beloved is a solid production with a capable cast that delivers an entertaining evening of comedy. This is live theater in an unusual venue done well by the cast and crew. You will leave the building with a smile on your face. I guarantee it.
This show closes on March 19, 2017. This show is suitable for the entire family.
Heads up. Do NOT head for the exits at the final curtain. Stay for the curtain call. It’s a hand clapping gospel medley of sing along favorites.
If you’re a fan of other Texas comedies like Greater Tuna or A Tuna Christmas, Dearly Beloved should be on your “must see list.
If you haven’t seen a First Company show before, access is very easy (no stairs to climb). There are two off street parking lots: a small one on the north side of the building, and a larger one across the street. You can enter both lots from E. Saint Vrain Street.
This is a short run (just two weekends), so don’t delay if you need tickets. Intermission at First Company shows usually features root beer floats in the lobby. It’s a fundraiser for the youth singers, with a suggested donation of $2.00.
Dearly Beloved satirizes rural Texans. If you’re sensitive and from Texas, you may be offended by some of the humor.
Photo Credit: First Company.
Co-Producers: Martin Fennewald & Megan Rieger
Director: Daniel S. Robbins
Set Designer: Marty Fennewald
Art Design/Painting: Alex Robbins, Kitty Robbins, Kiffin Irwin, Katie Harmon, Samuel Suksiri
Set Construction: Terry Phillips
Lighting Design: Kitty Robbins
Sound Design/Light Board: Alex Robbins
Lighting Assistant: Kari Kiser
Stage Manager: Candi Martynes
Costume Design: Katie Harmon
Properties: Miranda Wright
Sound Board Operator: Allison Singmaster
Makeup & Hair Design: Trudy Fennewald
Frankie Furtrelle Dubberly: Kitty Robbins
Honey Raye Futrelle: Cheerish Martin
Twink Futrelle: Alicia Franks
Tina Jo & Gina Jo Dubberly: Madalyn Rilling
Nelda Lightfoot: Katie Harmon
Geneva Musgrave: Megan Rieger
Dub Dubberly: Jon Reimer
Justin Waverly: Samuel Suksiri
John Curtis Buntner: Kiffin Irwin
Wiley Hicks: Justin Anderson
Piano: Jeannie Robbins
Bass: Norm Hetzel
Drums: Evan Danforth
Piano (rehearsal): Laura Gearhart